Tornegus Cheese is a cheese that results from a particular aging process of Caerphilly cheese. It acquires an apricot coloured rind after this process. It is made by Pat Robinson at Godstone in Surrey.
The Caerphilly used is an unpasteurized one, made by Chris Duckett at Walnut Tree Farm in Wedmore, Somerset using milk from the farm’s herd.
The Caerphilly is washed with a solution of brine from Kent (white wine, originally in the washing solution, is now left out.) The cheese is then sprinkled with lemon verbena, and mint.
Tornegus Cheese came about as the result of a storage coincidence.
Pat Robinson had a cheese business. She was joined in it by her partner, James Aldridge (22 August 1939 – February 2001.)
By 1989, they had extended the business to doing “affinage” — aging cheeses before resale. The business was called the Eastside Cheese Company.
Tornegus came about when some Stilton was put on a shelf to age, near some Caerphilly. The bacteria on the Stilton rind crossed over, causing the Caerphilly to develop orange patches. The cheese was tasted, pronounced good, so Aldridge developed the concept and christened the transformed cheese “Tornegus.”
In the spring of 1998, a single case of E.coli poisoning (in a 12 year old boy, elsewhere in England) was caused by a batch of Caerphilly cheese from the same supplier Robinson and Aldridge used. On 20 May 1998, Tessa Jowell, public health minister at the time signed an Emergency Control Order banning the sale of any cheese made by Duckett’s. Aldridge got hit by this — at the time, he was in the process of aging seven tons of the cheese. This cheese was from an earlier batch, and had been inspected by public health officers, who pronounced it safe, and in particular, pronounced it free of E. coli. Jowell, however, made the mistake of saying in the House of Commons that Aldridge’s Tornegus cheese had come from the batch that caused the concern, so a public health order was slapped on the cheese ordering him not to sell it, but to keep it all for further testing. Aldridge waited for the process to work its way along, but during that time the refrigeration failed, and the cheese went bad and began to decay and smell badly. Aldridge applied to a judge to allow him to destroy it — if he destroyed it without a court order, he’d get no compensation. The judge issued the court order, so he was able to destroy it, with hopes of compensation.
Then Jowell and the health department appealed, and got another judge to say that the first hold order was valid. Consequently, Aldridge was out any compensation. Jowell escaped with no consequences for her mistakes; Aldridge’s business and career were ruined, and he was bankrupt. Supporters raised some money for him, and Prince Charles sent him a letter of support, in his capacity as patron of the Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association. Aldridge died shortly after; some speculate from the stress he was subjected to.
In 2002, Prince Charles established the James Aldridge Memorial Trophy for excellence in raw-milk cheeses in Aldridge’s honour.
Johnson, Boris. It’ll be messy if the big cheeses hit the motorists. London: Daily Telegraph. 15 February 2001.
Levy, Paul. Obituary: James Aldridge. London: The Independent. 13 February 2001.
James Aldridge. London: Daily Telegraph. 14 February 2001.